Archangel's Prophecy (Page 24)
Over the years since she’d found her grandparents, Elena had become used to hearing the affectionate word from Majda’s lips, the same word Marguerite had once used with Elena and Beth, Ari and Belle. But she sensed more than saw Jeffrey go rigid, as, across from them, Jean-Baptiste got to his feet.
None of them spoke until Maggie was in the kitchen, safely behind the closed door. Then, aware Beth had to be imagining all sorts of horrible things, Elena cupped her sister’s face in her hands. “Harrison is alive.”
Beth’s pupils flared.
Elena didn’t give her a chance to panic. “He was hurt, but Father and Eve found him in time,” she said in a voice as calm as Jeffrey’s had been at Beth’s house. “By now, he’s at the Tower under the care of a team of experienced healers.”
Beth lifted her hands to clamp them over Elena’s wrists. “How badly is he hurt?”
Elena didn’t lie to her sister. She had once, softening the edges of reality because she’d thought Beth couldn’t accept the harsh truth, but she knew better now. Though Beth lived in a world of sparkles and pink coats and a little girl who was her starlight, there remained inside her a Beth who understood death and loss and having to stand at gravesides while the people you loved were put in the cold ground.
Elena wished she didn’t, but life had stolen that choice from them.
“Bad,” Elena said. “But one of Raphael’s Seven donated blood to help him heal. You know that blood is powerful, Bethie.”
Her sister’s trembling lips firmed. “Oh. That’s good.” She took a shuddering breath. “Raphael’s angels and vampires are scary and tough.” She turned toward Jeffrey, and, to Elena’s surprise, their father held out an arm.
Beth fell against his chest, let him wrap his arms around her. “Harrison got the best possible help at the right time. Barring any unforeseen complications, he’ll be fine,” he told Beth with curt practicality. “Your house, however, is a mess—you should stay with your grandparents for the time being. We’ll make sure you and Maggie have what you need from the house.”
“I need to see him.”
Elena had expected as much. “I’ll organize it.” As her sister, Beth was always welcome at the Tower, but Beth was intimidated by the vampires and angels who called it home.
“We’ll take care of Maggie while you’re with your husband.” Jean-Baptiste touched his hand to Beth’s shoulder after she stepped out of Jeffrey’s embrace.
Another deep breath. “How was he hurt?”
“Someone attacked him,” Elena said, because Beth couldn’t protect herself in ignorance. “Harrison was afraid you and Maggie might be targets too—you’ll have guards until we figure out what’s going on.” She’d talk to Dmitri, get Jean-Baptiste some help.
Beth didn’t dispute the order, her pupils hugely dilated. But even after the shock passed, Elena had no doubts that Beth would acquiesce to the protection—her sister was agreeable and gentle, and she’d do anything to keep Maggie safe.
Now, she took Elena’s hand again, holding on as she had as a bewildered little girl. “I’ll be able to think properly after I see him.”
“Do you wish to say good-bye to little Marguerite so she doesn’t worry?” Jean-Baptiste asked, and Elena felt her father go impossibly stiffer. They all knew Maggie’s full name, but neither Jeffrey nor Elena ever used it. It was too hard.
Beth straightened her shoulders. “Yes.” A determined smile on her face. “No stressing out in front of my baby.”
Jean-Baptiste’s eyes narrowed after Beth was gone, his hands on his hips. “You have the details of the assault on Harrison?”
“The assailant attempted to decapitate him.” Elena took care to keep her voice low. “Harrison couldn’t speak, but he was desperate to warn me that Beth and Maggie were in danger.”
“No one will take another child from us,” Jean-Baptiste said grimly. “I promise you this.” Then he turned to look at Eve and, though she was no blood relation of his, leaned in to press a kiss to her forehead. “And how are you, Evelyn? Such a fierce look you have on your face.”
“It was horrible.” Eve gave him a hug, was warmly hugged in turn. “But I stood watch with my long blade while Father tried to help Harrison.”
Meeting Jeffrey’s gaze once Eve broke the embrace, Jean-Baptiste held out a hand. “It is good to meet the man who loved my child and was loved by her.”
Perhaps because this was Jean-Baptiste, who didn’t remind Jeffrey so terribly of Marguerite, he shook the proffered hand. “If you’ll excuse me,” he said afterward. “I need to organize a cleaning crew for Beth’s home.”
“I’m going to steal a cookie,” Eve said after Jeffrey stepped outside to make the call.
Alone with Elena, Jean-Baptiste sighed. “Majda wants so much to know the man who was our child’s husband and who spent so many years with her, but your father is . . . difficult.”
A very diplomatic word. “She reminds him too much of Mama.” Her grandparents could have no idea of the staggering resonance of the resemblance—photographs didn’t capture her mother’s spirit or her innate gentleness. Majda had the same gentleness, though her spirit was wilder than Marguerite’s. “Father loved Mama more than he’s loved anyone else his entire life. He broke inside after he lost her.”
“I understand, child of my child.” Her grandfather’s tone was bleak. “But we will keep trying. You and Beth are living pieces of our Marguerite, but Jeffrey has memories you cannot know.”
Eyes threatening to burn, Elena nodded.
Beth returned from the kitchen a couple of seconds later. She had her coat with her, was already shrugging into the deep purple of it. “Maggie’s more than happy to stay here while I go out for a little bit.” She pulled out a set of keys. “My car’s parked on the street.”
Jeffrey confiscated Beth’s keys the instant they got outside. “I’ll drive you.”
Beth, being Beth, agreed.
Elena didn’t veto the arrangement either; Jeffrey’s car was bulletproof and the distance to the Tower short. To be safe, however, she made a call to Dmitri so he could alert angels in the air to keep track of the vehicle. That done, she waved Jeffrey, Beth, and Eve off . . . and tried not to flinch when two huge white owls appeared out of the snow to fly past within inches of her on either side. Her hair lifted in the wind created by their wings, a soft brush against her cheek from the very edge of a feather.
But when she swiveled to follow their flight, the owls were gone.
Her own wings dropped to drag along the cold stone of the path.
Heart chilled, Elena pulled them back up and tried to decide what to do. A vertical takeoff wasn’t a realistic possibility, but she didn’t want to ground herself without reason. She had to test the status of her wings, see if they could hold her aloft.
At the same time, it’d be foolish to run the test alone.
Raphael was out on the water, and so was Illium. There was no point asking either one of them to come in when she was simply running a controlled test. She still needed a spotter—someone loyal enough not to say a word about the problems with her wings but strong enough to ease her fall if her wing did collapse.